AK legislature hearing set for Friday on bill to close Area M to June salmon fishing

The bill targets Area M on the AK Peninsula, but the future ramifications could affect any fishery on a lawmaker's whim.

by | April 19, 2023

Filed Under Management | Meetings | Salmon

The bill would set a precedent and put fisheries management decisions into the hands of AK legislators

Alaska legislators on Friday (April 23) will address Senate Bill 128 proposed by Senator Donny Olson of Golovin titled “An act temporarily closing the commercial salmon fishery in a portion of the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands.”

The measure is in response to what many claim is the Board of Fisheries inaction on the interception of chums bound for Western Alaska in the mixed stock fishery at Area M, more commonly called False Pass. It proposes to close the fishery from June 10 to June 30 starting this year.

Values in millions of dollars through 2021

The bill will be teleconferenced by the Senate Judiciary committee starting at 1:30pm Alaska time and public testimony will be taken.

Kathy Hansen, director of the Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance, had this response to the push to arbitrarily give control over fisheries management to Alaska lawmakers,: “The Board of Fish is not perfect, don’t always agree with their decisions but it is a better system and more transparent process than any other. If this precedent is set, you will have many requests to consider legislation for decisions (people) didn’t like at their Board of Fish meeting. I would add that while you may think “I don’t fish Area M, this doesn’t apply to me”….this very well could be your area/fishery next.”

How to watch, listen and testify

To watch the hearing online, go to the legislative home page at http://w3.akleg.gov/  at the time of the hearing and click on the “Live Now” tab. Select the Senate Judiciary meeting on Senate Bill 128.

Call in to testify at the following numbers, and ask for the specific committee hearing you want to listen to:

  • From Anchorage: 907-563-9085;
  • From Juneau based phones or outside Alaska: 907-586-9085;
  • From other areas of Alaska, call toll-free: 844-586-9085

Learn more about the Area M controversy

Olivia Ebertz at KYUK in Bethel produced a brilliant three part explanation of the Area M issue that has been going on for decades. She points out that the Area M June commercial fishery is a multimillion dollar industry. 2021’s catch was valued at $78,242,146 in total, 33% of which went to out of state fishermen. The three episodes are below:

Part 1: https://www.kyuk.org/science-and-environment/2022-07-11/area-m-the-place-in-the-sea-where-alaska-commercial-and-subsistence-interests-collide

Part 2:

Part 3: https://www.kyuk.org/science-and-environment/2022-07-15/as-chum-numbers-in-the-y-k-delta-tank-area-m-fishermen-are-catching-just-as-many-as-ever-before

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.


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